A key problem for Blue Line riders waiting on Virginia platforms shared with the Yellow Line is that two of their trains are scheduled to arrive six minutes apart, then there’s a 12-minute gap before the next one. Meanwhile, several Yellow Line trains will arrive.
Commuters who work around L’Enfant Plaza, Gallery Place, Union Station or Capitol South are almost certainly better off taking Yellow Line trains. Commuters who are trying to reach Rosslyn or the west side of the Orange Line might as well wait for the next Blue Line train, despite the big gap.
But there’s some uncharted territory on the west side of the District. For that trip, is a rider better off waiting for the Blue or boarding the next Yellow?
We picked King Street station as our origin and Farragut West as our destination, because the schedule from the Trip Planner on Metro’s Web site seemed competitive: The Blue Line ride would involve a wait, followed by 22 minutes aboard one train, and the Yellow Line ride would total 24 minutes aboard two trains, plus transfer time.
Dr. Gridlock: Yellow Line
7:43 a.m., King Street. The next-train information board — when it’s not displaying pound signs instead of information — says it’s a 10-minute wait for the next Blue Line train, so I board a six-car Yellow Line train bound for Mount Vernon Square. (This is the old Yellow Line, not one of the new Rush Plus Yellow Line trains to Greenbelt.) In car 5098, three people are standing, but about 10 seats remain open.
7:51 a.m., Crystal City. All the seats are gone, and 15 people are standing. The platform isn’t crowded, but there are clusters of people who must be waiting for the next Blue Line train.
7:54 a.m., Pentagon. A few depart, but a dozen board, so we have about 32 standing in our car as the train crosses the Potomac River bridge into the District.
8 a.m., L’Enfant Plaza. I am on the back portion of the Yellow Line train as we arrive and walk to the Orange and Blue line trains on the lower level. The platforms and escalators are crowded, but I never stop moving, so I am able to board a waiting Orange Line train just before the doors close.
8:03 a.m., Federal Triangle. When we left L’Enfant Plaza, car 3120 was full of standees. But the crowd begins to diminish as people head for their offices. I have plenty of room to stand in the middle of the car. About a dozen other riders still stand. The air conditioning is a lot better than on the Yellow Line car. Riders are appropriately dressed for the first day of summer, when the temperature will reach the upper 90s.